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  • Writer's pictureAnge Puig, Ph.D.

SEPTEMBER 2022- The Importance of Emotional Self-Regulation

So how important is it to regulate our emotions so that we have control of the things we feel and experience in life?

Emotional regulation is defined as the individual’s ability to effectively manage and respond to our array of emotional experiences. It is the tools and techniques that we employ to manage difficult and unsettling feelings that we experience throughout the day and at critical times in our life.

As evidenced and indicated in the Dunedin Study: the final importance of self-control in creating positive life outcomes. The results of this 40-year study indicated that in almost every measure of success, self-control made a huge difference. This included life areas such as Economic, Relationships, and Physical and Emotional health. The Dunedin Study examined child development and health issues following the lives of 1037 babies born between 1972-1973. It is now in its fifth decade. It is examined as the one area of study to impact of self-control issues on life success.

To quote the late Colin Powell:

“There are no secrets to success: don’t waste time looking for them. Success is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence.”

While there are many elements & ingredients to a successful life, the one that I have seen in my professional and personal work is that of the ability for individuals to regulate one’s own emotional states.

The question is the degree to which: ”self emotional regulation” has been adequately and appropriately acknowledged in the mental health treatment world. If you look over the index of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, you will not find a diagnostic category for Anger. I find this curious given that the loss of emotional control and anger outbursts, and negative verbal exchange is quite common with the individuals who often present themselves for mental health treatment.

I came across a short comment and article In Psychology Today by Susan Heitler, Ph.D,

“Got anger disorder? Not according to the DSM”.

She raises the question given that there are diagnostic labels for anxiety and depression why not for anger.

My opinion is that the core element of issues with anger is not the anger, it is just one of the 75 emotional states identified recently by Dr. Brené Brown in her book, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience.

To state it another way, it does not necessarily matter what the anger issue is if there is a lack of emotional regulation to deal with the state of Anger.

For example: Flying off in upset and rage is much more than having a bad moment. It is a teaching moment but only if we sign up for the lesson. Again, therefore, the individual’s ability to regulate their emotional state, especially Anger, is critical in how they manage life challenges and the resulting consequences.

So, my closing thoughts and consensus is that one we need to:

  1. Notice our emotional state;

  2. Learn from this awareness of when, what, where, why, and how that Anger operates in our Bodies and Minds;

  3. Ask ourselves what purpose is this Anger serving? What is it telling me about my relationship to life and its challenging moments; and lastly

  4. Sit down with your Mind, treating it kindly and thank it for this information.

Therefore, spend time reviewing what's behind your Anger versus sweeping it under the Rug of emotional avoidance for another day.

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